From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Dates announced for 2005 Taco Bell Truth Tour

Date Tue, 23 Nov 2004 13:35:49 -0600

Note #8576 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

November 23, 2004

Dates announced for 2005 Taco Bell Truth Tour

Event will include demonstrations, human chain and "reverse reality tour"

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE - A group of Florida farmworkers and their supporters, including
Presbyterians and other people of faith, will kick-off the 2005 "Taco Bell
Truth Tour" March 7.

	The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida-based group that
represents farmworkers who pick tomatoes that Taco Bell uses in its products,
is sponsoring the event, which concludes March 19.

	The CIW launched a national consumer boycott of Taco Bell in April
2001, demanding the fast-food giant and parent Yum! Brands Inc., press its
tomato suppliers to improve wages and working conditions. They also want Taco
Bell to develop and monitor a code of conduct for growers and packers.

	"The farmworkers are asking Yum! Brands to eliminate exploitation in
its supply chain and work positively to ensure the human rights of workers
that pick tomatoes for their suppliers," said the Rev. Noelle Damico, a
United Church of Christ minister who is the national boycott coordinator for
the Presbyterian Church (USA).

	The PC(USA)'s 214th General Assembly in 2002 endorsed the national
boycott of Taco Bell and called for good-faith dialogue between its tomato
supplier and representatives of the coalition.

	Other religious bodies joining the PC(USA) in endorsing the boycott
are the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, the Christian
Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Friends Service Committee
(Quakers), the National Council of Churches, and the Unitarian Universalist
Service Committee.

	The 13-day tour, the fourth of its kinds, will focus on the South and
Midwest with peaceful demonstrations outside Taco Bell restaurants and other
programs aimed at raising awareness of conditions in the Florida fields where
tomatoes are picked for the Mexican-style restaurant chain.

	Stops are planned in Atlanta, Memphis, Chicago, St. Louis, and
Indianapolis, March 7-12, in route to Louisville, home of Taco Bell's parent
company, Yum! Brands, Inc.

	"Some of the things that we will be doing include helping people to
understand the links between how it is that Yum! Brands and Taco Bell have a
hand in the poor wages and poor working conditions that farmworkers receive
and what they can do about it," said Julia Perkins, a CIW staffer who is
helping plan the Truth Tour.

	The farmworkers, who will travel by bus, will sponsor a week of
educational events and actions in Louisville, March 13-19, concluding the
tour with a rally outside Yum! headquarters the final day.

	Though specific details and itineraries are still being worked out,
the event should include similar highlights as in the past, Perkins said.

	"The stops in each city will include time to spend with the community
there, most likely marches, protests at local Taco Bells, and the open
community forums where the farm workers have an opportunity to tell their
stories," she said.

	More than 100 farmworkers are expected to take part in the nearly two
weeks of events, flanked by a growing number of church members, student
activists, farmers, labor groups and community leaders, according to

	Also scheduled for 2005 Truth Tour is formation of a human chain
stretching from Yum! Brands' offices to nearby Unified Foodservice Purchasing
Co-op (UFPC), which manages the supply chain for all five of Yum! Brands'
chains: Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silvers, and A&W Restaurants.

	"We want to help people understand the role of organizations like the
UFPC, which is Yum! Brands' affiliate that does the volume buying," Perkins
said. "Keeping the prices that they pay for products artificially low keeps
the farm workers' wages artificially low. At the same time they have the
mechanism in that to want to work for better conditions for farmworkers."

	Boycott supporters are planning to maintain a round-the-clock
presence outside Yum! headquarters during the event, Perkins said, though
some will take part in a daylong "reverse reality" bus tour through the
neighborhoods of Yum! Brands executives.

	"The Taco Bell Boycott is an exercise of our stewardship over God's
creation," Damico said. "Through our consumer power we are bearing witness to
and encouraging business practices that are more in line with the well-being
God intends for all people."

	The coalition wants Taco Bell and its parent to urge its distributors
to give the farm workers a one-cent-per-pound raise.

	The pickers currently earn 40 to 45 cents per 32-pound bucket, a rate
that hasn't changed appreciably in more than 20 years. Farmworkers say they
must pick two-tons of tomatoes to earn $50. Meanwhile, the average retail
price of tomatoes has risen from 67 cents per pound in 1980 to $1.32 in 2002,
according to U.S. government figures.

	With revenues of more than $24 billion in 2003, Yum! Brands is the
largest restaurant company in the world, and as such wields tremendous
influence in the corporate food industry, organizers said.

	In the past, Taco Bell has said it does not have the ability to
negotiate directly with workers, who work for producers.

	For the past three years, the farmworkers from Immokalee, FL, and
their allies have crossed the country, carrying what they claim is the truth
about the sweatshop-like conditions behind the tomatoes in Taco Bell's
products to communities from Tallahassee to San Francisco.

	Each year, the CIW's truth tours have culminated in large actions -
including a 10-day hunger strike in 2003 and a 44-mile march in 2004 -
outside of Taco Bell global headquarters in Irvine, CA.

	The 2004 Taco Bell Truth Tour started with more than 150 farmworkers
and supporters marching eight miles through Louisville, from the PC(USA)'s
national offices to Yum! headquarters.

	"The Presbyterian Church (USA), by virtue of having its national
offices in Louisville, is in a unique position to encourage our neighbor Yum!
Brands, to use its power to help bring about real and lasting change for the
farmworkers that are at the heart of its operation," Damico said.

	Organizers say support for the boycott is expanding at a rapid pace
across the country, particularly on college campuses, where the
Student/Farmworker Alliance's "Boot the Bell" campaign has grown rapidly.

	Most recently, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and
the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, have moved to end their
relationships with Taco Bell in response to student support for the boycott.

	The institutions joined 18 other schools in a growing wave of
student-led activism, demanding that Taco Bell clean up human rights abuses
in its supply chain if it is to do business on their campuses.

	For more information about the boycott and the 2005 Taco Bell Truth
Tour, visit the Web sites of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or the

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